HC Deb 16 May 1989 vol 153 cc153-4
5. Mr. Butterfill

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what progress he is making towards agreement on a common classification scheme for hotels, boarding houses and self-catering accommodation throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Lee

The tourist boards for England, Scotland and Wales have now agreed common criteria for their classification and grading scheme for serviced accommodation. The English and Scottish boards have reached agreement on uniform criteria for self-catering accommodation. The English tourist board plans to begin inspections using the new criteria in September 1989, and to include the new classifications in accommodation guides for the 1991 season.

Mr. Butterfill

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend and I am pleased to hear his answer, but it seems to imply that there will be different classification schemes for the catered and non-catered sectors. I should be grateful if he would confirm whether that is the case. If so, is it not rather unsatisfactory and likely to confuse the general public? Would it not be better to have a symbol common to both but different in some way, such as a filled-in crown for the catering sector to show that the inner man is being looked after, and an outline crown for the non-catered sector?

Mr. Lee

My hon. Friend has written to me on that point. I understand that the English tourist board considered an outline crown symbol for self-catering, but it was rejected because it wanted to draw a clear distinction between serviced and self-catering accommodation. My latest understanding is that it is proposing a key containing a crown, so there is an element of compromise.

Mr. Kennedy

Will the Minister use his offices to encourage the English tourist board to reach a final agreement on the matter? The Scottish self-catering sector is concerned that the general aim, which everyone should endorse, of a common crown system throughout the United Kingdom is to some extent being thwarted because of what is probably an unnecessarily severe view on the part of the English tourist board about the discerning abilities of the public with regard to self-catering and fully-supportive holiday accommodation, as the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) said.

Mr. Lee

The hon. Gentleman is right. We want to move towards common criteria. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that the changes that I have announced move increasingly towards the Scottish system, in which the classification introduces a quality assessment—something that we do not have in England.

Mr. Key

I thank my hon. Friend for his progress report, which will be welcome in Wessex where many farmers are seeking to diversify in that area. However, who is to bear the cost of the new classification and what plans does my hon. Friend have for revising and updating the guide, as that is a crucial aspect?

Mr. Lee

We hope that in the long term the classification scheme will become self-financing, but in the short term, we estimate that it will cost about £468,000 net in 1989–90, which I hope will he reduced to about £300,000 net by 1992–93.

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